Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Which baptism, what school?

Is baptism simply another hoop to jump through so you can get your kids into the right school?

It seems that there are many people who think so.

A friend recently related a story of a Priest who asked a group of 14 couples coming for baptisms whether any were doing it simply to make sure their kids got into Catholic schools. 12 couples put their hands up.

This story reflects 2 dinner party conversations related to me where the conversation revolved around which church baptism led to which church school.

Of course, one can take the view that, even despite cynicism of this approach to infant baptism, it still provides an opportunity for the church to engage with the family and share the unconditional grace of God with those families.

Yet, is the hope of this proclamation taking place enough to retain the integrity of baptism?

I have never said no to parents who are willing to answer the questions within the baptismal liturgy and I always endeavour to help people understand the importance of the promises.

They are making a covenant (promise) with their children and the church, a covenant that they must take responsibility for.

The congregation also makes a covenant to support the parents and children of families come to grow in their faith.

The integrity can, and more often than not is, compromised by parents and congregations that have never really entered into the covenant fully.

So how to answer the question “Which baptism, which school?”

The one baptism of the one church (in Australia 11 churches recognise the common baptism) introduces your child to the school of Jesus Christ.

Baptism initiates children and parents into the life of discipleship, learning from Jesus as the one true teacher par excellence.

Is this not the school baptism draws us in to? Is the expectation of baptism as a requirement for entry into so-called Christian schools idolatry that diverts our attention from the main game? Do we really as baptised people invest enough time at sitting and learning from our master teacher Jesus?

Peter Lockhart

Photo from Creative Commons

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